Neil Cugley will be leading Folkestone Invicta into their next Ryman League campaign after securing the club’s top flight survival on the final day of the season.
The veteran Invicta boss vowed to carry on after completing his 20th season despite criticism from some quarters following his side’s brief flirtation with relegation over Easter – two days in the bottom four between losing at Enfield on Easter Saturday and beating Kent rivals Tonbridge Angels in front of a big Bank Holiday Monday crowd at the Fullicks Stadium.
With Invicta still needing their 3-0 win at Grays Athletic on the last day to stay up, Cugley insisted the club deserved to kick off in the Ryman Premier for a second successive season before thanking the fans who made the trip to Essex to cheer them to the victory they needed.
Happy to be relieved and delighted for his side, pictured, in almost equal measure, Cugley admitted it had been a tough final day and season for the 2016 Ryman South champions but insisted they had responded superbly with three wins in their last five games to bank 10 of the last 18 points on offer.
The Invicta manager said: “It was all a bit nervy yesterday afternoon, if I’m honest, but we kept plugging away and once Joe Taylor got the breakthrough we could all relax and enjoy the day and our supporters were absolutely brilliant.
“I’d have guessed there were 200 or so there and the players really appreciated that. Grays were playing there [Mill Field] for the last time, and I suppose that meant something to them, but the noise that our fans were making made it seem like the important game that it was as far as we’re concerned.”
Joking that his critics hadn’t seen the last of him just yet, he added: “I’m not going anywhere – and I know there are a few people who won’t like that! This is a very good league – far better than the one that we came out of.
“I think, even if we have had a few problems getting used to the standard, everyone at the club feels the same way. And even if it came down to the last game in the end, I feel it’s the level where this club deserves to be.”
Cugley also paid tribute to Invicta chairman Paul Morgan who took over last summer following long-serving Jim Pellatt’s decision to step aside, adding: “Paul has been absolutely brilliant. He’s a very good man and we could hardly have asked for anyone better to take over from Jim.”